Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

July 27, 1999


By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

It's a jungle out there. It's also an island, a gauzy midnight park, a lush garden, a pounding dance floor, a storm of violins, a haunted forest, a ruined temple in the moonlight. It's a world that's both familiar and unfamiliar, that exists yet doesn't exist. It's a world where the spirit of foreign climes comes to roost in American hi-fi sets.

It's a dead world. But its rising again.

It's the world of mood music, or exotica, or space-age pop, or island pop - pick a subgenre. It's a strain of musical culture that was generated by scores of musicians and studio wizards and album-cover artists and the flimsily-gowned "native" girls the artists used as models.

From around the close of World War II until the early '70s, when drug-fueled rock music decisively took over the imaginations and pocketbooks of listening America, music and visual artists produced thousands of LPs designed to lull consumers into dreams of romance, adventure, the future, the past - anything but the humdrum present.

"People had a dream that became evident in the '5Os," says Jennifer McKnight-Tronz, author of "Exotiquarium" (St. Martin's, $24.95). "They were starting to learn about the world, but they were too naive to know their dream was narrow-minded. So it took the form of 'Hawaiian' music or 'Oriental' music that really wasn't."

"Exotiquarium" is an irresistible book containing much information on musical artists as diverse yet almost interchangeable as Martin Denny, 'Yma Sumac, Montovani (he of the strings), Ferrante & Teicher, Arthur Lyman, Leo Addeo and His Orchestra, Danny Stewart and His Orchestra, Hal Aloma and the Hawaiian Orchestra, The Markko Polo Adventurers - the list is endless.

McKnight-Tronz writes about the countless LPs such artists recorded, with titles like "Cha Cha Cha's for Lovers," "Manhattan Latin," "Carnival Tropicana," "The Sounds of Exotic Island," "Sea of Dreams," "Strings for a Space Age," "Music for Dreaming," and “Music for Daydreaming."

Most interestingly, the book includes reproductions of the album art that formed a kind of hallucinatory backdrop to the culture of that time.

The images range from extreme gemutlichkelt to pseudo-French impressionism to steamy, bosom-heaving cheesecake. The one thing they have in common is that they are pictures of a fantasy world that Americans not only had never seen but that didn't exist.

"After World War II, a lot of musicians were captivated by the sounds they associated with foreign cultures," McKnight-Tronz says. "They were curious about these cultures but not sophisticated. They weren't seriously looking at them, they were making it into what they wanted it to be."

Although that world vanished from the cultural and commercial radar decades ago, it has reached a phantom tendril through to our own time. Modern recording acts like Combustible Edison and Stereo lab draw their inspiration largely from those febrile soundscapes of yore, and music consumers galvanized by a renewed appreciation of swing, beatnik, and Rat Pack cultures and a comfortable home within the music of mood.

It is all terribly quaint, of course. But where did it really come from?

Perhaps it's worth noting that an entire segment of the mood phenomenon - island/Hawaiian music and its countless offshoots - arrived by way of American servicemen's experience in the South Pacific during World War II. That's the same war that brought us the never-ending threat of nuclear annihilation and the hard-to-assimilate memory of the Holocaust.

During the time these albums were most popular, neither of those two topics was much discussed. Comedians made jokes about bomb shelters, but no one outside of history class ever said more than a word or two about all those innocent victims of the Final Solution. There were no widely-read books on the subject, and no movies. None appeared until the '70s were almost over.

So maybe it's no more than understandable that Americans would seek release from such unacknowledged tension in the surf and steam of faux Latin/island/space age orchestral stylings.

McKnight-Trontz puts it succinctly: "It's music for people who were just trying very, very hard to relax."

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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